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White House courts progressives on chained CPI

Even before the White House releases its budget today, the line item that's made the most waves is the inclusion of a switch to the so-called chained CPI, which would reduce benefits for Social Security recipients by changing the way inflation is calculated. This naturally touched off a firestorm on the left from many who say that, in addition to being bad policy, it's political suicide for a Democratic president to cut a social safety net program.

We've given plenty of space to the detractors, and on Tuesday, two senior White House officials laid out their case to Salon and a small group of other reporters in a background briefing. Here's what they're thinking:

First of all, the officials insisted, the White House will not go any further than what they're offering now. As they see it, they went halfway with their last offer to House Speaker John Boehner and the CPI switch, so now they're looking to see if anyone will meet them there. This way, if a grand bargain never materializes -- which they acknowledge is the most likely scenario -- it will be harder for Republicans to blame them for killing it.

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